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German POWs in the Notorious Tombolo Camp Near Livorno

Unser Waldlager. Sonderdruck der Pinienpost [Our forest camp. Special issue of the Pine Post].

[Tombolo, Tuscany]: Pinienpost, [1947?]. Octavo (20.5 × 17 cm). Original side-stapled pictorial mimeographed wrappers; [12] leaves of mimeographed typescript and full-page illustrations to rectos. Front wrapper printed in black and red. Very good.

A rare pamphlet printed by German POWs in the notorious Tombolo camp near Livorno, Italy, also known as the “Forbidden City” in the Italian sensationalist press of the period. It was issued as a special supplement to the journal “Pinienpost” (“Pine-tree post”). Containing mimeographed typescript poems, prose, and nine illustrations, including views of the camp and camp buildings, the pamphlet was quite likely among the very last publications in the camp prior to a raid that led to its closure in 1947. The poems are by E. Weiler, Franz Holtsteger (who apparently also supplied the illustrations), Hans Salentin, and two poems written in 1945 by unnamed authors.

“A pine forest located between Pisa and Livorno, Tombolo was the site of a US military encampment and a key staging site for the Allied invasion of Italy, due to its close proximity to Livorno’s port. After the war, it became the site of a flourishing black market, attracting large numbers of Italian prostitutes, the so-called segnorine, who were drawn to the camp by the free flow of US dollars. Because many of the soldiers served by these segnorine were African American, Italian fascination with and opposition to the prostitution and black marketeering in Tombolo were framed in overtly racial and often racist terms. The resulting mix of prurience and prejudice made Tombolo a kind of Italian obsession after the war… Tombolo was so central to Italian culture and politics that even allusive references to the term could conjure the doubt, anxiety, and indignation of a society working to recover after the war” (Charles L. Leavitt, “The Forbidden City: Tombolo between American Occupation and Italian Imagination,” p. 144).

Part of the camp’s allure was due to the fact that, before the war ended, it had been home to a small group of African-American soldiers and German soldiers, both of which had deserted their respective armies and banded together in the pine-covered marshland, foraging for food and ultimately stealing from military convoys to ensure their survival. The soldiers were eventually joined by various other outlaw figures, which allowed them to trade on Italy’s black market. Although largely forgotten today, the scandal surrounding Tombolo was ubiquitous in literature and film of the period, with at least two neorealist films paying homage, Giorgio Ferroni’s Tombolo, paradiso nero and Alberto Lattuada’s Senza pietà (both 1948). In his fascinating account of Tombolo’s role in Italian post-war culture, Charles Leavitt goes so far as to suggest that “Tombolo became the ‘contact zone’ for the competing racial regimes of Jim Crow and Fascism, and for the resistance against those regimes: the nascent US Civil Rights movement and Italian anti-Fascism” (p. 148).

As of June 2021, KVK, OCLC only show the copy at Notre Dame.

Book ID: 51546

Price: $1,250.00